Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 13, 2014

Foster care group sees rise in cases

Volunteers sought to assist with needs of area children

April Barbe
Jacksonville Daily Progress

CHEROKEE COUNTY — The number of children in foster care is growing, and local offices with CASA of Trinity Valley need volunteers to help assist in the placement of area children.

In 2013, 47 children were added to the foster care system in Cherokee County, joining a caseload of 132, according to Elvis Allen, resource development officer with CASA of Trinity Valley.

“We have added 33 new cases (in Cherokee County) in the first six months of this year, and there are only about 16 volunteers,” said Allen, CASA resource development officer.

Allen said 138 of the 179 total cases in 2013 remain open, as well.

“They (volunteers) are the only stable force in that child's life for about a year while CPS gets the legal

wrangling done,” he said.

Twenty-three volunteers were on hand this past year to assist with the 179 cases.

A volunteer is appointed to advocate on behalf of each child or family of siblings. The CASA volunteer visits with the child regularly, monitors the child's progress and the progress of the CPS case. The volunteer also interviews everyone involved in the child's life and reviews all relevant medical, educational and legal records and reports findings to the court and other parties, according to a news release from Debbie Riggins of the Jacksonville CASA office.

Basically, CASA volunteers are the people who help guide the children through the foster care and child protection systems into permanent homes.

To qualify, a person must be at least 21 years old and pass a background check. The volunteer must then undergo 30 hours of pre-service training and be sworn-in by a local judge to become an officer of the court, Allen said.

“There is such a stigma attached to this, that people don't know that they can do it,” Allen said. “We have more free reign than the CPS (to work on the cases), but volunteers always have CASA for support.”

CASA of Trinity Valley serves Cherokee, Henderson and Anderson counties.

To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer, call (903) 284-6245 or visit www.BecomeACASA.org or www.casaoftv.org.